The Past In THE Present

This home reflects the homeowner’s family values and love for antiques, while still providing a modern backdrop. LYNN TAN finds out how the old can perfectly complement the new in this home project.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
This home reflects the homeowner’s family values and love for antiques, while still providing a modern backdrop. LYNN TAN finds out how the old can perfectly complement the new in this home project.
My Reading Room
My Reading Room
The clean look and whitewashed walls allow the antique furnishings to take centre stage.
My Reading Room
My Reading Room

An avid antique collector and his family


A five-room HDB apartment in St George’s Road



The former banker has been collecting colonial marquetry furniture, old Laotian textiles and Burmese lacquerware since his army days. Most of the pieces have been with him for over two decades, so, understandably, he wanted a large living and dining area where he could display his precious collection. The living and dining area is also the heart of the home. Mr Low says: “I wanted it to be like a ‘meeting place’ where most of the family activities will be held.” With this brief from the homeowner, Cheryl Chen and Pieter Idenburg, design director and managing director respectively of ICIA, proposed to hack the walls of the bedroom adjacent to the living room, thereby allocating more space for the living and dining area.

With such an extensive collection of antiques, one would have expected Cheryl and Pieter to design plenty of built-in display cabinets and wall shelves. But they came up with an unexpected solution instead. “The homeowner owned quite a number of prominent furniture pieces and we really didn’t want to just shove them against the wall. So, we carefully planned out the placement for each and every piece of furniture,” Cheryl explains. They then became displays housing Mr Low’s collection.

This was also in response to the client’s requirement. “I wanted built-in cabinets only in the kitchen and master bedroom, but not in the living and dining area, where I prefer to have a big, empty space and clean, white walls,” Mr Low says. The designers proposed that the living and dining area be an open-concept space and were able to fit in a 3m-long Suar wood dining table. “This is where we spend most of our time as a family, doing work or eating together. We also enjoy having good friends over for a nice meal,” shares Mr Low. On the other side of the space, there is ample room for an L-shaped sofa in the living area that the Low family of three use for reading, which explains the bookcase that takes the place of a television set.

Like the rest of the flat, the kitchen was completely overhauled. It is designed like a galley kitchen, with built-in cabinets. The refrigerator, oven, washing machine, dryer, hob and hood are integrated into the full-height cabinets on one side. Furthermore, while the original common bathroom was accessible from the kitchen; it has been reconfigured into a guest bathroom that faces the living and dining area, making it more convenient for guests staying over. Beside it is a space that has been created for storage. It is discreetly concealed behind a pivot door with a framed textile, part of Mr Low’s collection, hung over it.

Right from the start, Mr Low felt strongly about not wanting a particular style for his home because “it may become outdated”. Pieter says that viewpoint fitted ICIA's design philosophy to a T. The result is a timeless and practical home that is independent of current trends.
My Reading Room

Homeowner Mr Low enjoys learning about the history behind his collections.


A modern table design with a live wood tabletop provides a modern accent to balance out the look of the antique displays along the wall.

Glass doors help to maintain visual flow between the living and cooking spaces, while still keeping them separated for functional reasons.
My Reading Room
The sense of modernity is achieved by extending the doorways all the way to the the ceiling.
My Reading Room

Some of the homeowner's cherished treasures beautifully displayed in the antique cabinet.

The sophisticated bathroom layout features a colonialinspired tiled floor with a Peranakan-style pattern.
My Reading Room

photography DARREN CHANG art direction LIM YI LING